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DHHR Head Wants To Shift To Prevention

PHOTO: Rocco Fucillo. Photo provided by the Governor's office.
PHOTO: Rocco Fucillo. Photo provided by the Governor's office.
August 24, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The acting head of West Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources says he wants to move the agency more towards prevention, but without expanding the budget.

Rocco Fucillo says DHHR's budget is being spared most of the cuts hitting other parts of state government. However, he says, with rising demands on substance-abuse and family services and Medicaid, even the agency's 6,000 employees could have trouble meeting the need. Fucillo hopes they can be much more effective for example, by preventing child maltreatment rather than addressing it after the fact.

"Staying within the budget, but redesigning programs to have more positive outcomes. Not only does it benefit those children, but there's medical science that shows that that child develops totally differently if they're never abused or neglected."

Federal support for current Medicaid programs has declined, seriously denting the entire state budget. Some lawmakers are asking how much the state can afford to do. At the same time, the agency has difficulty keeping qualified staff, when huge caseloads cause stress and burnout. Fucillo says the DHHR's new approach could reduce the need for services in the long term.

"If you have a more prevention-oriented approach, you still have the same amount of workers, but they don't have the same amount of caseload. So they don't have the same pressures that they had before."

He says they also can do more to keep caseworkers from burning out, without adding to the agency's $4 billion budget.

"Appreciation, recognition, making use of technologies, most of the things I've talked about are things that won't cost that much money to do."

Fucillo says the agency can get similar results in areas such as truancy and chronic illnesses in Medicaid patients. He addressed a meeting of the West Virginia chapter of the National Association of Social Workers on Thursday.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV